My Big Reward Vacation

I’ve just returned from a week-long vacation to the Disney parks in Anaheim. I started planning this trip back in January after some friends had suggested I look into running one of the Disney park races. So look into them I did. And decided that at those prices – and still having to pay for admission to the park(s) on top of everything else – I’d much rather stick to local, more affordable races and then take myself on a Disneyland vacation as a reward for hitting my goal weight.

I rather optimistically decided on late October as a good time to book things, thinking I’d likely be down to my goal of 175 lbs by then. I’m not there yet (scale said 190 when I left home) but took the trip any way because the money had already been spent. So I repurposed the trip as a reward for learning how to be healthier rather than attaching it to a specific number on the scale – which in general I think is a healthier attitude to take any way.

One big deal about the whole trip was this would be my first time traveling by train. Here are some things I learned about train travel:

  • You can bring food and water with you – and you should definitely do so. The cafe car closes early. And even if it didn’t, it’s crazy expensive. (A basic sandwich was $7.)
  • Bring a blanket. Amtrak keeps their trains FREEZING.
  • Cramped in your seat? You can walk around! Hell, in the wee hours of the night/morning, you can even go to the likely mostly-vacant lounge car and sprawl out over a whole bank of seats for as long as you like.

And now armed with that knowledge, I’m ready for my next big train trip. Whenever that will be.


I’ll have to go when the whistle blows ’cause the whistle knows my name. Baby, I was born on a train.

So I boarded the train in Tucson on Sunday night, eventually arriving in Anaheim early Monday morning. The train station was about 2 miles away from the hotel and the hotel was about 3/4 mile away from the Disney park entrances, so I was able to walk to whatever I needed pretty easily and didn’t need a car at all which was nice. I spent much of Monday just bumming around the area, wasting time until I could check into the hotel. Had a much larger breakfast than usual, wandered around Downtown Disney for a bit, bought my park tickets, and took a walk around the exterior of the Disney property to scope out a running route for use during my stay. Eventually I was able to check in at the hotel, where I promptly showered and had a quick nap before finding a reasonably priced carne asada burrito across the street for dinner. I was able to see the fireworks from Mickey’s Halloween Party through my hotel window.

Woke up around 5:30 Tuesday morning without the aid of an alarm, so I went for a 5 mile run. (I know, right?!?) After a shower and quick “breakfast” of a cheese danish and mini-donuts from the hotel lobby, I was off to Disneyland for the day. I don’t know how many calories you burn in 10 hours at Disneyland – especially if you eat anything in the park – but I’m pretty sure it is quite a bit. Lunch was a chimichanga from one of the “street” vendors in the park. Verdict: meh. Avoid unless you’re really craving a vaguely meat-and-bean-flavoured paste wrapped in a fried tortilla. Not worth the $7.

Main Street, USA

Main Street, USA, Halloween style.

Slept until my alarm Wednesday morning, which I purposely set rather late. Had time to shower and grab coffee and a granola bar from the 7-11 on my way to California Adventure since the hotel hadn’t managed to put out breakfast yet. 12 hours in the park with a short break to wander back out to 7-11 for a much less expensive (though just as unhealthy, I’m sure) lunch. Also, met Pluto. This was my third visit ever to California Adventure, and I had never bothered to catch the World of Color show. I decided to stick around for it this time, and I’m glad I did. Pretty amazing stuff. Also, watched the Mickey’s Halloween Party fireworks from the hotel balcony just before turning in for the night.


I met Pluto!

Thursday should have been a run day but I was feeling pretty exhausted and staring down the barrel of an 11 hour day at Disneyland and so could not be bothered to wake up with my first alarm for a run. This was another pretty big day for me since I had a reservation for lunch at the Blue Bayou – you know, the restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean. While not something I think I’d plan on doing every time I went to the parks (which isn’t all that often), it’s definitely worth doing once. Just be prepared to pay for the ambiance – the cheapest lunch entree is $26. I had a great seat right by the waterfront – even if it was right next to the kitchen door. I went with the jambalaya with chicken gumbo for my side. Both were quite tasty but I was unable to finish the jambalaya. I blame the rice in the gumbo. Oh… and the bread basket they brought me when I was seated, which I was unable to ignore. Very much a lot. But yes, I probably should have gone with the salad instead of the gumbo.

Jambalaya at the Blue Bayou.

Jambalaya at the Blue Bayou.

While visiting the parks I sent a number of photos to my sister, who thoughtfully stitched them together with similar photos she had from our big family Disney trip back in late February/early March of 2013. They provided a pretty good before/after comparison. Here are a couple of them:

Before/after in the Tarzan Treehouse.

Before 260 lbs/after 190 lbs in the Tarzan Treehouse. Sadly, minus the nephew in the after.

Before/after on Splash Mountain.

Before 260 lbs/after 190 lbs on Splash Mountain.

Friday I slept in as late as I possibly could. Made a trip up to the CVS for supplies to pack for the train ride. Check-out was at 11am and my first train wasn’t until 6pm, so I had tons of time to kill on foot in Anaheim – which is actually pretty dull if you’re not in one of the parks. Made one last walk through Downtown Disney before grabbing lunch. Then I decided to just make my way to the train station where I could at least pass the time in air conditioned comfort. There, I learned that my Anaheim – LA ticket was actually good for any train making that leg of the trip, so I went ahead and caught the next train to Union Station. In LA I checked out Olvera Street – which was cute, witnessed a woman shrieking bloody murder at a carrot – which was frightening, had a french dip sandwich at Phillippe The Original – which was delicious, and heard a wind quintet in Union Station – which was delightful.

Neptune Winds at Union Station

Neptune Winds at Union Station

As much as I wanted to wander around some more to check things out, I was feeling quite the fish out of water. I’ve never really considered myself a small-town boy. After an hour or so of wandering around LA by myself on a Friday evening, I have accepted and embraced the fact that yes, I am absolutely a small-town boy who has no business wandering around a city like LA without someone who knows the area. Instead, I hung around Union Station until my train finally boarded around 9:30pm. Got home early Saturday morning and after making a run for cat food and groceries, I proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend doing as little as possible.

I’m a little disappointed to see the scale has hopped back up to 195, but that’s to be expected with much of what I ate. I am well aware that my sodium intake over the week was much higher than usual, which means most of that weight is likely my body holding on to water which will go away over the next week or so.

It felt good to get back out and run on home territory this morning – even if I was a bit sluggish – and I am looking forward to settling back into my better eating habits. Now to really focus on training for this December half-marathon. Good times.

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